FlightAware, an online flight tracking website, reported nearly 1000 canceled flights entering, departing, or within the U.S. on Saturday. This is up from 690 flights that were scrapped Friday. For Sunday, more than 250 flights were already cancelled. FlightAware doesn't provide any explanations for cancellations.
All three airlines, JetBlue, United and Delta said Friday that the flight cancellations were caused by the omicron variant's staffing problem. Maddie King, United spokesperson, said that staff shortages are still causing cancellations. It was not clear when normal operations will resume. She said that omicron's effect on staffing was "unexpected". Saturday's questions were not answered by JetBlue and Delta.
FlightAware reports that the airlines cancelled more than 10% of Saturday flights. According to FlightAware, American Airlines cancelled more than 90 Saturday flights, which is about 3% of the airline's schedule. Derek Walls, American spokesperson, stated that cancellations were due to "COVID-related sickness calls." European and Australian airlines also cancelled holiday-season flights due to staffing issues tied with COVID-19.
Travelers had to travel a lot, which meant no time with loved ones, chaos at airports, and hours spent waiting in line or on the phone to rebook flights. Peter Bockman, an actor who retired, and Malaika, a college-aged daughter, were scheduled to celebrate with family members in Senegal this Saturday. Their Friday 7:30 p.m. flight from New York to Dakar was cancelled. They found out when they arrived at the airport. They tried to rebook the flight until 2 AM.
He said that "Nobody was organizing or trying to sort out things," and blamed Delta for not providing customer service. "Nobody explained what they did. "Nobody explained anything.
They are concerned that their new flight for Monday night will have a Paris layover, and that could cause problems. They missed Saturday's big family gathering.
FlightAware data shows that airlines canceled more than 6,000 flights worldwide for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday as of Saturday evening. Nearly one-third of the affected flights were to, from, or within the United States. Many of the flights were canceled by Chinese airlines, with Chinese airports topping FlightAware's list of most cancelled. It was not clear why. China has strict pandemic controls measures. This includes frequent lockdowns. The government placed one on Xi'an earlier this week, a city with 13 million inhabitants.
Employees of Air China and China Eastern Airlines answered the phone Sunday to customer hotlines, stating that they hadn't been notified of cancellations of flights to the United States.
Air China usually fly between New York City, Shanghai and Beijing twice per week. China Eastern operates two weekly flights to Los Angeles from Beijing, one from Beijing, and one from Shenzhen. Hainan Airlines, another Chinese airline, also suspended flights to the United States during the pandemic.
Through March 31, the Civil Aviation Administration of China has a total of 408 international flights scheduled per week. This is 21% less than a year ago.
This year, the U.S. airline industry has been plagued by flight delays and cancellations due to staff shortages. In 2020, airlines encouraged their workers to quit. However, they were caught short of staff this year, as air travel recovered.
Spain and the U.K. have shortened the COVID-19 quarantines to allow people to return to work sooner after being exposed or testing positive for the virus. This is to alleviate staff shortages.
Ed Bastian, Delta CEO, was one of those who called for the Biden administration's similar steps to prevent further disruptions to air travel. The U.S. reduced COVID-19 isolation rules only for health care workers on Thursday.